Heterogeneity in Autism: How to Deal with It? a Systematic Review

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
J. Agelink van Rentergem1, M. K. Deserno2 and H. M. Geurts3, (1)Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (2)Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (3)University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Background: Heterogeneity within the autism spectrum is universally recognized as an obstacle to research and practice. Subgrouping methods are used to organize individuals into more homogeneous subgroups, making use of similarities and dissimilarities between participants.

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to compare the results of various subgrouping methods, and compare the results of establishing subgroups using different (domains of) variables.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted of 108 papers published after 2001 that have subgrouped participants, of which at least some had a diagnosis of ASD. A specific interest of this review was the method that was used to validate subgroups.

Results: Almost all articles validate subgroup results using variables that were measured concurrently, but were not included in the subgrouping procedure. Investigations into stability over time and replication studies are rarer, aside from some remarkable exceptions.

Conclusions: For many of the subgrouping results, we cannot be sure that results generalize, and that subgroup membership will not change from one measurement occasion to the next. In this presentation, recommendations are made for the interpretation and validation of subgrouping results in autism.